The subject of term limits as a topic is not new. It was debated at the Constitutional Convention and rejected by the Founding Fathers for what I personally consider, after a careful evaluation, to be good reasons. But to shorten the research for other people so they don’t have to go through the agony I did in getting to where I am, I’m going to put the end of my reasoning here. This topic is also found in the Federalist Papers and various other writings of the Founding Fathers. Some of them were for term limits, no doubt, but in the end they were, I think, correctly rejected.
There comes a time when in the observation of human nature, particularly when it is in the raw area of politics, that you can spot when people are having a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t like Orrin Hatch, Thad Cochran, Charles Grassley, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Patrick Leahy, Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi or pretty much most of the chuckle heads that get into Congress and seem to stay there forever. Having the Libertarian leanings that I do I would, in fact, say that my political dislike for them far, far exceeds that of most of the people.
I completely understand the frustration of the People with the government but intending no offense to anybody, I think that would be a knee-jerk reaction. “I don’t like something so I’m going to have the government make a law to limit it,” is not exactly a good argument for smaller and more limited government. In fact, what it is is a restriction on the rights of voters to elect who they want to have serve them.
I’m going to draw an appropriate analogy here. People catch colds. Their nose gets stuffy, which causes discomfort, so they blow it. The act of blowing one’s nose is not a cure for the disease of having a cold. It is just a crude treatment of the symptoms. In order to cure the cold you have to destroy the virus that drives it then the symptoms go away of their own accord. There can be no doubt that the symptom of a runny and stuffed up nose is what bothers the sufferer of a cold. There can also be no doubt that blowing one’s nose makes him feel better for a little bit until the symptoms return. So, having a cold and getting it to go away requires a handling that addresses the cause. Crank up the intake of vitamin C. Get some rest. Eat some chicken soup. Stay warm. Build up your body’s immunity system so it can do its thing and fight the virus.
Again, meaning no insult to anybody and with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I say that term limits are like blowing your nose. Sure, it gets the snot out but does nothing to cure the disease.
The foremost reason I’m given for the support of term limits is something along the lines of, “keeping them from collecting too much power by staying there too long.” Or, “To end the good old boys club.” So there’s too much power in Washington. Is the lack of term limits somehow a wide open invitation to those in Congress to violate the Constitution any old way they want? I can’t find anything written anywhere that says so. They are bound by their oath to the Constitution on their last day in the seat just as much as on their first day. There is nothing anywhere that says they are less responsible to the People as time passes. Anthony Weiner, for example, was just as much a corrupted scumbag on his first day as he was on his last. He had as many connections through the power structure of the Democrat Party on the first day as his last.
Another person told me we should have term limits to, “get constitutional leaders.” Here we have a problem of power gained through people who are in office not following the limits imposed on them in the Constitution. It makes no difference if they are in office for a year or fifty years, they can vote for things that are unconstitutional that come to the floor on the first day. And when they get limited out—because an uninformed public will never, ever, ever vote for the constitutional guy—he or she will just be replaced with another unconstitutional guy who would vote for the same unconstitutional policies. The Democrats aren’t lacking in their supply of unconstitutional idiots. Neither are the Republicans. So as the Doritos commercial used to say, “Crunch all you want. We’ll make more.”
With regards to the Good Old Boys Clubs, they are called the Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, etc., parties. Let me say it again, the political parties are the Good Old Boys Clubs. Political parties have been around for hundreds of years and they are not going anywhere, term limits or not. They are already in place and have permeated the thoughts and policy of the newly elected congressman long before they take their seat. Their firm belief in, and dedication to following the policies of, whichever Good Old Boys Club they belong to is how they got there to begin with. It’s in their acceptance during the nomination process that ensures they will tow the party line. Long before their first day in the seat they are part of the Club. That is in fact exactly how they got there. Ending their term a dozen years or so after the fact will do absolutely nothing to the Good Old Boys Clubs because when some of them get limited out the Clubs will just replace them with another Good Old Boy for the misinformed People to vote for, while his predecessor becomes a lobbyist or runs for office in the other house.
One friend suggests to me, “The harder party lines they can draw the more time they have to more effectively prostitute themselves.” I think by the time they go through the election process it’s too late for that. They’ve already prostituted themselves well beyond the point of no return.
Other reasons for term limits given to me tend to run along the line of logic that, “We don’t want professional (or career) politicians.” This line of logic is pretty diverse in their reasoning and I’ve never been able to get much sense out of exactly why. In my own universe of thought I want the best possible person I can get, for as long as possible, in places that are important to me. For example, my mechanic has been working on every vehicle I’ve owned since 1987. He’s just that good. Another is my doctor who has been seeing me for almost twenty years. They are good professional, experienced people. You wouldn’t want the high school graduate in basic auto mechanics to fix your Ferrari. You wouldn’t want the medical student who just removed his first appendix yesterday to do your brain surgery.
In the military you don’t want some newbie lieutenant with no combat experience making the calls. You want the admiral who has been there for decades, and understands how and why things work, to do it. Why would it be any different for government? So you don’t want career politicians making the difficult choices? Okay, would you be more contented with a rank amateur, with no experience in running the most advanced country on the whole planet, on whose shoulders the freedom of every living human being rests, during a time of crisis? How is running the federal government of the United States an entry level position?
Every four years we decide who the next president should be. A major question in every single time this happens is, “Does the candidate have the qualifications and experience to properly do the job?” Yet somehow, once they’ve been there and gotten that experience, it becomes something that makes them the wrong person for the job? It’s as if simply by doing the job they automatically become corrupted. I submit to you that if they are corrupted it is before they took the office. You just didn’t see it before. A truly good person cannot become corrupted.
The best reasoning for this argument usually sounds like, “Being in government should be a temporary job for people who have ‘regular’ jobs. This way, the government understands and is empathetic toward the problems of working people/citizens and therefore can make informed decisions that truly affect the lives of most people. Informed/intelligent citizens are smart enough to understand the inter-workings of government in short order.”
As much as I love the person whose quote the above is I have to very respectfully disagree. While I can think of a lot to say about this from different angles I’m going to only address what I think is the basic flaw in the argument. The federal government of the United States was not designed to be understanding, empathetic or make any decisions that truly affect the lives of most people. It was designed to give the People their own power and freedom to be understanding, empathetic and make decisions that truly affect the lives of most people for themselves. This is the critical point in the debate. This is the make/break point between blowing one’s nose and curing the disease. To have someone rule over you or to rule for yourself? That is the question.
One of my good friends suggests the benefits of term limits would be, “To end the elitist mentality if they know what is good for us little people.” Changing from one person who has power over you to another person who has power over you will not do that. That’s blowing your nose. Only taking the power away from the people who have power over you will. This is a cure. If a tiger’s fangs chewing on your throat is bothering you it does no good to replace them with another set of fangs. It’s still a tiger chewing on your throat.
The thing all of the above have in common is that they are oriented around the effects of the problem. Term limits can never fix the problems in Washington because they aren’t the cause of the problem. So we have to look at the causes of too much power gathering in Washington to resolve the problem. In order to do that we have to ask, “Where does power under the constitutional system come from?” Well that’s easy, the Constitution of course! Alright then, but how can a document originally designed to limit federal power be the cause of too much power? The answer is simple and comes from a very in-depth study of American history. The Constitution was amended to give undue power to the federal government that the Founders never intended them to have.